Saturday, June 18, 2011

The black dog, or why retrievers should be banned

I think it was two summers ago, on a street that Tinky-Winky and I traverse on our daily walks, two households got puppies. One was a large black lab. The other was an even larger yellow... lab, or something. The yellow dog had a fenced yard. The black dog didn't. Therefore, the black dog was allowed to spend the days at the yellow dog's house, playing together in the fenced yard. Everything was copacetic.

Unfortunately, puppies don't stay small forever. The two puppies became huge, and for lack of training, they became unmanageable. The yellow dog was gotten rid of. The black dog wasn't. But since it wasn't invited to play in the fenced yard anymore, it got tied outside its house. All by itself. So it started to bark and jump up and down whenever people or dogs walk by. This was a nuisance, so the people fixed it with... a shock collar. Which doesn't really work.

Since I've been home for a few months, I started working on that dog. I approach her to pet her. If she barks or jumps, I leave. If she's quiet, I pet her. So it took months, but now when she sees me coming, she lies down quietly and waits for me to come to her. Then she rolls over on her back. Did I mention it took MONTHS? Most people are amazed how fast I can get their dog to roll over. This one took months. (On the other hand, I had Tinky-Winky full-time for 2 1/2 YEARS before she would roll over, which tells you something about how headstrong she is.)

The other day, I was petting the black dog, and she was lying down quietly. A human came out of the house, and immediately the black dog was jumping and barking. The human yelled at her. (Why? The dog barks, you yell; the dog thinks you're doing what she's doing, then she does it some more.) Amid all the noise, I said to the human "she's getting better though, isn't she?" and the human said "oh, I don't know, some days she's ok and others she's just impossible."


No, I don't think she's impossible at all. I spend two minutes with your dog once or twice a day and she's quiet with me. You live here and she barks and jumps at you. That seem funny to you? Well it doesn't seem "funny" to me at all. Your dog isn't "impossible", she's bored and lonely. She wants to play. With another dog, preferrably, but she'd be happy to spend time with a human. When is the last time you walked her? When is she ever allowed to sit quietly beside you? She's tied up outside all day, every day, all by herself, watching everybody walk by and pay no attention to her. Poor dog.

It goes without saying, the black dog is not getting walked. I've seen her walking with her human ONCE and I was all happy that they were walking, but it turned out she had escaped and the human was only bringing her home. I feel I ought to walk her, but honestly, I don't want to. For one thing, she's at the farthest point of our walk from home, so it's really inconvenient. I also hate picking up after large dogs. It grosses me out. Also, Tinky-Winky hates her. And also, inevitably, she's gonna be a huge pain to walk on leash for quite some time. I'm a construction worker, so I can handle a fairly strong dog, but I don't really like to spend my walks doing that.

Also, because she's such a large dog, she needs to walk fast, not dawdle along at Tinky-Winky's whim. Tinky-Winky on the leash is painfully slow, because she's uncooperative. Every two seconds she has to pee, or scratch, or tangle herself in her leash, or pick sticky tree things off her paw pads, or smell something, or otherwise find anything to do that isn't walking along with me. It's takes us forever to get anywhere. Take the leash off though, we're like the wind. But that's a story for another post. The point is, a two-year-old lab needs to move a lot faster than an ornery 12-year-old shiba. In fact, in order to get up enough speed to get that dog exercised, I'd need a bike. And that's not in the budget for this year. So, I'm not offering to walk the black dog, and I feel bad for her, but I just don't really want to take on her problems. I also get the feeling that her female human is getting annoyed by my interference with her dog.

So that's one reason people shouldn't have retrievers. I don't know a single retriever who gets walked. People say "they're good with children." Yeah, well, they're very patient dogs, but that's absurd. Teach your children to be good with dogs, instead of expecting the dog to put up with them. You know what "good with dogs" means? It means you WALK THEM. Teach your kids to walk the dog. Three hours a day, fast enough that the dog is trotting, not walking. Don't worry about the dog being "good with kids"; the dog is gonna treat your kids a thousand times better than you're gonna treat the dog.

Nobody should have a dog they're not gonna walk, and no one I know who has a retriever ever walks further than the couch to the fridge. Some say they need the dog to hunt with, but first of all they don't train it for hunting, and second, what are you gonna do with the dog the other 363 days a year? Tie it out in the yard and ignore it? That's nice. Some poor dog is gonna spend his or her whole life crying in your yard because you want to feel like a big man with a gun a couple weekends a year.

Here is how you know if you need a retriever: do you spend two to three hours a day, every day, even when it's raining or very cold, jogging, biking or rollerblading? If so, get a big dog. If not, do you spend two to three hours a day, every day, even when it's raining or very cold, walking? If so, get a dog that trots at the speed you walk. If not, get a ferret. Some people, seriously, even a bearskin rug is too much of a pet for them.

The other reason people shouldn't have retrievers is that they're so prone to cancer. I've read somewhere that 40% of retrievers get cancer. Is that true? I don't know. But they sure don't last very long. Cancer in a dog costs thousands of dollars. A friend of mine has a pug who just got diagnosed with cancer. It cost over $4,000 just to diagnose her. She's 5 1/2 and she will be dead in a month or two. Chemo could buy her another month or two, but there's no money left for chemo. I think spending thousands of dollars on a dog with high medical needs is a waste anyway, but you can always get more money, and you'd probably waste it anyway. But the bigger thing is, YOUR DOG IS GONNA DIE OF CANCER. Why would you buy a dog so you can watch it die of cancer at a young age? Even supposing you're completely selfish (which you probably are if you're getting a dog that you're not planning to walk), and you don't care that the dog is gonna suffer, do you think YOU are gonna enjoy watching your dog die of cancer?

So that's why retrievers should be banned. Some breeds get banned because somebody decided to stick the label "vicious" on them, instead of putting the blame on the owners, where it belongs. Well, "vicious" dogs are only dogs that have been mistreated. Retrievers have miserable lives with people who don't take care of them, and then they die a slow and painful death. Isn't that being mistreated? Just because they don't turn on people doesn't make it ok. So they should be banned, not because they're dangerous to people, but because people are dangerous to them. You want to feel like a big man, buy a Harley. It won't mind one bit sitting in front of the house day in, day out while you don't take care of it.

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